This is going to be a fragmentary post because my thinking on it is still disconnected. Sometimes I get thoughts and words stuck in my head and blog to get them out; if I'm lucky, the fragments amount to more than self-indulgent navel-gazing, and make sense to someone else reading them. (In other words: Probable navel-gazing ahead. You've been warned.)
I've been thinking about loneliness a lot lately. Not long ago I realized that my joy in all things aesthetic depends on my being able to experience them with other people who also care about them. For better or worse, I've always bonded most closely with people when we can talk about books or art or music or theater or film, and lately I've really been missing that. The great thing about my trip this summer was the superabundance of both beauty — landscape, art museums, architecture, Mozart masses, amazing city streets — and good friends, and the elusive sense of being completely at ease in said friends' company. But it also reminded me of what's been absent from my everyday life.
I think of that 2006 study that suggested that Americans have fewer confidants than they used to. The findings have been disputed somewhat. But it rang true when I first read about it, and it rings even truer now.
(Several people have told me recently that New Englanders aren't all that friendly. Neighbors don't know each other, they say; it's hard to form deep friendships. I hope that's not true; but, though I've made a few friends since I moved here, there's nothing like the network I had in grad school, or even my smaller circle of friends in Philadelphia. My closest friends all live at least a hundred miles away.)
It's hard to separate all this from the general malaise of right now: the worry about whether we're ever going to pull out of this recession, the grim collective mood, the outbursts of panic-fueled bigotry, the lines from Yeats's "The Second Coming" popping unbidden into my head at odd intervals. Laura at Apt. 11D posted a particularly vivid account of this state of mind: anger combined with the increasing awareness of social networks fraying, and then fraying some more.
I want to do something to improve the lot of all us lonely people (cue "Eleanor Rigby"), even though I know, realistically, one person can't do very much. But that's part of the problem. I'm feeling rather acutely like just one person at the moment. How many other people out there are feeling like just one person in a world of acquaintances and strangers, I wonder?
And what is one to do?
At any rate, if you've read this far, Reader, thank you for listening.